Sarah is one of my athletes who is currently training for the Glen Lyon Ultra marathon and the Brighton marathon. Unfortunately an injury has sidelined her for the moment which prompted her to write this piece on her blog.
For anyone who runs regularly and has experienced an injury (most runners probably), you’ll be able to relate to the feeling of complete despair when the physio delivers the damning verdict. Comparable to the feeling of separation anxiety you have when you get dumped, it literally feels like the rug has been whipped out from underneath you. You’ve been relegated to the naughty step without the option to lace up and run your woes and worries away with a cheeky 10k. Sound a bit dramatic? Perhaps. But, most people who feel the way I do about running will be all too familiar with the feeling.
This was my start to the year. With a solid base under my belt, built up through the winter months I was looking forward to getting stuck into training for the Brighton Marathon and Glen Lyon Ultra. I am still hopeful I’ll run both races, but I’m currently stuck in the recovery phase (probably settling somewhere around point 3-4 below) and thought it would help to lighten the load by blogging about my suffering. So here I am. Sorry. Running haters log off here.
What I’m starting to find rather amusing about the experience of being injured is the very obvious set of motions you go through in the process to recovery. All of them carrying some valuable life lessons which are true to any scenario where you have a lot of your eggs in the same basket.
- That dull ache in my hip that’s not shifting is totally normal. Runners ache all the time. It’s fine. It’ll be fine. Foam roll and stretch and you’ll be grand. Still feel that way on the next 10 miler you plan to smash out before breakfast? Not so much.
- Despair and anxiety: okay, I think there is something really not right here. Wonder what google has to offer me? Go through about five different possible scenarios, all with a potentially devastating outcome – surgery to a life without running – you name it. When you’re probably looking at a wee strain that needs a bit of rest. Those still reading, I highly discourage this behaviour. It makes you irrational and anxious. No necessary. All this time you’re running pals are clocking up the miles on Strava and posting their marathon training routes online, while you’re at home with a bag of frozen peas, weeping into a glass of wine.
- Acceptance: this is where you level out but drain your bank account throwing money at the problem, hoping for a magic pill to heal you; massage, physio, gym membership to cross train, new compression gear you name it.
- Gaining strength: you’ve made some learnings along the way, and realised that there was probably something you were doing before which made this the end outcome. Or there are things you can be doing now to help you come back stronger and fitter in your recovery; core work, strengthening weak muscle groups, cross training to prevent MORE injuries
- Returning to running: the holy grail, at least it seems that way. But a couple of weeks back in, it’s like you’ve never been away.
This is not the first time I’ve been injured and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But, every time it happens I think you learn more about yourself. And, if you’re honest with yourself, the learning process as painful, frustrating and upsetting it is, is a useful one. This time round there are a few obvious learnings for me:
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I hate to admit it, but running is a bit of a crutch for me. It keeps me grounded every day, lifts my mood, clears my head and allows me to eat cake and not feel too horrendous about it. But, it is addictive, and having a back up to fall on when things go wrong would be wise, so you can avoid feeling like your world is falling apart. Again, dramatic, but partially true.
- Pay more attention to your body mechanics, strength and mobility. I’ve always done some strength and conditioning alongside running, as well as some yoga for flexibility (don’t get me wrong, my hamstrings are still always like lead every time I go but I feel it helps). But, I’ve not given enough time to figure out what my body personally needs to be able to clock up the miles every week. Turns out I have a real difference in strength between my left and right leg, the left over compensating and being more prone to injury. And, my glutes aren’t firing properly so its putting extra strain on my hip flexors. So, the plan of action is to focus on those areas and my core so my body is better equipped to take on the challenges I throw at it.
- When things go wrong, act, don’t react. Getting frustrated and annoyed at what you can’t control is a waste of energy. You realise this pretty quickly. In the time you have spare from all of the running you’re missing, channel your energies into things you can control and have more time to think about. As a trainee nutritionist, I’m always pretty focused on how I fuel my body, but it’s even more important when you’re trying to heal and recover. So, it’s been green juices every morning, cutting back on caffeine and sugar and making sure I’m getting plenty of essential fatty acids (omega 3s) to help bring the inflammation down. I’ve also rediscovered the benefits of swimming and plan to build some more cross training into my training from now on.
- Remind yourself it’s only running. Things really aren’t that bad. And you’ll recover and come back from it stronger and wiser.